Dilemma of a full time working mother

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You've decided to work full time, but there are still issues you have to face. Read about it here.

Having been working almost all my adult life, it has been my dream to be able to spend more time with my kids. This excludes the time I stayed home when I still only had two young children.

I don’t want to dwell on the reason why I went back to work after I had already decided to stay home. Let’s just say that opportunities kept knocking on my door. My husband and I could not resist. We thought, “Well, since the opportunity is too good to let go, let’s just take the plunge, anyway. If it doesn’t work out, you go back home.”

Neither of us knew that it was a “No U-turn” road.

Fast forward to five years later. Yes, I am thankful for the opportunities and that things have been great for both my husband and me.

  • We have extra savings
  • Our family has done adventurous stuff
  • My husband and I have had trips on our own
  • We have been able to afford better schools, fun classes, etc.

However, I have missed out a lot on my kids’ growing up years:

  • What did they eat?
  • How did they feel after a bad day at school?
  • How did our helper actually treat them when mommy was not around?
  • Who wiped their tears when they fell down in the playground?
  • Who gave them big beary hugs when they couldn’t fall asleep during naptime?

I shed some tears when I think back on all those that I missed.

Why are we at a dilemma?

If those are invaluable things that I am truly looking for, then, why are so many of us - me included - are dwelling on whether to stay home or to work? Guys, let’s take a real look at the situation.

1. Economies are tough

Based on a 2016 survey result, Singapore is top 4 among the most expensive cities to live in after Hong Kong, Luanda-Angola, and Zurich. With a single income, most households would struggle to make end meets, not including having extra savings.

2. Retrenchment is on the rise

Companies are striving to cut costs and trying to milk every worker dry. Single income households might feel insecure relying on a sole breadwinner.

3. Many mothers are well-equipped and well-educated women

A lot of us women (feminism and equality are always debatable – nonetheless at least the difference is perceived to be trivial in Singaporean workforce context) would want to make use of our education, skill sets and EQs to prove ourselves useful in the corporate world. Some women are born to hold authority. Not that we have no power at home, in fact my husband used to name me the CEO, CFO and COO of the house sans name card to be passed around (ahem..)

 4. There are mothers who don’t enjoy staying at home with the kids

Some of us are just not into being cooped at home with little children running around. Singing B.I.N.G.O for the 50,000th time that month alone is another factor.

Let’s admit it. Not every woman loves to do mundane chores, to act silly, and to spend time doing tasks that are not very mentally challenging.

Imagine changing and cleaning poops and pees for at least six times a day, feeding poor little fella and having to say ARGHHH EAT IT PLEASE SWEETIE, IT’S BROCCOLI, IT’S CURLY AND IT’S CUTIE and seeing the fella just spitting it out as soon as it gets into the mouth. That’s not fun!

This is also the main reason why some of us hesitate to stay at home even if the finances of the household is of little concern. Frankly, I do not need to even think if my husband gives me S$40,000 per month of pocket money minus all the household expenses and I can outsource those energy consuming chores to 10 babysitters/helpers and only do the fun stuff with kids.

For me, it is quite clear that I would probably continue working for an indefinite time, as each of the reasons above makes sense to keep me earning a decent living.

The challenges of a full time working mom

What are the challenges that we, as Full Time Working Moms, are facing?

1. Trusted and Reliable Caregiver Arrangement

Who can entrust her child to just any random person? None. Once the child is born and up to the point when our maternity leave is ending, the gut wrenching moment of separation is something that we dread.

Is our child in good hands? Will the caregiver handle our kids like how we will treat them? Will they be able to discipline them? (The answer for this is NO, we are the ultimate discipliner until they go to school where teachers will become their Second Disciplinarians)

This is in fact the biggest problem why mothers choose to stay home. Many engage the help of foreign domestic workers to take care of the children as well as to manage household chores. It might work out if luck is on your side to find a really trustworthy helper. Otherwise, assistance from immediate family members will be a better option (ie. rope in in-laws or parents to take care of your child(ren)). Other option includes infant care and nanny which I shall not dwell on.

2. Balancing work and life

This is easier said than done. In the corporate world, people are still very much stereotyping against working mothers despite the efficiency and productivity that we put in. We may not be sitting in the office for such long hours as we have other little bosses to serve at home, however, it does not mean that we are not doing a good job. We may even do a better job as we are striving to achieve the best of both worlds and do our family proud.

A pat on the back is what we need from our bosses to recognize our hard work. We don’t need the judging stares that we get from our male counterparts and bosses.

3. Taking time off work

Why are you taking urgent leaves again? What now? Sick kids? Being called up by teachers? Helper runs away? In-laws need to go to their Mahjong session?

This probably relates to balancing work-life balance that we have mentioned above. Another portion of work-life balance is also when you have no choice but something which needs to be dealt with almost immediately (ie. sick child, helper not available, etc). This is not something that we have expected to happen when there is a month end-closing deadline to be met. But, we, mothers, really have no control over such emergencies. 

Can we make a plea for leniency if such things were to happen? We will make it up, that is a promise, and we are sure to keep it…

4. We are unavailable even when we are physically present

The pace of life has been moving so rapidly that we are almost occupied most of the time even when we are physically there with our family. This is a bad habit, in my opinion, as we are only left with a fraction of time for the family, and we are not even treasuring the moment.

It sometimes happens involuntarily, if you ask me. Too many things are happening, and in order to continue bringing home the bacon, we automatically switch to working mode as soon as the email notification flashes on our mobiles. If we ignore the email or call, we fear of judgement that work is not our priority. If we have been caught in this vicious self-judging moment, how would we be able to focus on what is in front of us - our little innocent juicy faces that have been waiting for us whole day so that we are home to spend more time with them? Their longing for our cuddles, snuggles and undivided attention for just another hour or so before they are shoved to their beds?

Think about it. Nobody is indispensable in a company, but you are indispensable in the eyes of your family. There is no replacement of us in the heart of our child(ren).

Hold on, I do not mean you need to neglect your work or your job if you are extremely passionate about it or it allows you to bring home not just the bacon, but ham and turkey as well. My only wish for all parents out there: please be present, hear them out, talk to them with your heart and not just a nod while our eyes are glued to our devices. They grow up in split seconds…

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